Frederick Bremer School

Waltham Forest

Background

Frederick Bremer School was built as part of the first wave of Building Schools for the Future (BSF) in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. It joined two existing schools, Aveling Park and Warwick Boys, as part of a redevelopment of the former Hawker Siddley factory site that included the provision of 256 residential units.

Design challenges

The tight urban site offered a set of challenges for the design team to resolve including:

  • disconnection from the local community due to being set back from the main road and behind a residential development
  • close proximity of a railway line to the east of the site
  • industrial character of the site.

The school doesn’t have a strong presence in its urban context because of the location. The design of a dramatic entrance way which is glazed at triple height and flanked by a two storey “welcome wall” resolves this by ensuring visibility from the main street.

The internal street

The entrance leads into an internal street which is the central circulation and meeting space in the school, used for dining, exhibitions and events. The library occupies the central portion of the top two floors and features a prominent bow window that curves out into the internal street. Assembly hall, drama facilities and a lecturing auditorium lead off from this space – all occupying double height spaces on the north side of the building.

Teaching wings

The school has two three-storey teaching wings linked by a triple height internal street. Floor to ceiling windows along the southern elevation of the internal street draw light into the building and connect inside activity to outside spaces. The landscaping includes a paved courtyard on two levels, integrating an amphitheatre and exterior prayer room.

The teaching wings are designed around the conventional classroom model and located at right angles to the internal street. Each floor contains small ICT suites, head of year offices which overlook corridors and anti bullying toilets. The floor to ceiling windows and glass walls result in a pleasant light environment that feels safe and reassuring. The use of colour to identify teaching departments helps with wayfinding and brightens the neutral colour scheme.

Other features

The potential of the school’s industrial location was realised through integrated industrial characteristics in line with the school’s technology, engineering and construction specialism.

Systems, materials and construction techniques usually hidden by suspended ceilings, panels and paint are exposed so that the school can be used as a resource to learn from. Close proximity to the railway line and the ability to see (but not hear) trains going past classrooms is consistent with a school celebrated as a working piece of engineering.